I am so fortunate to live where I live. I have access to some of the most beautiful trail riding country in the world. I have had the privilege of going on several trail rides with my Norwegian Fjord Aura. We have covered a few miles through pine, spruce and fir forests, through a few creeks, up and over some fairly steep terrain and just strolled along narrow trails and back country roads. I can honestly say that there has never been a ride that I did not enjoy. To ride along in the forest and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells is one of the most relaxing experiences I know. It also gives my horse and I a chance to connect, and it gives us the opportunity to practice some of the things we work on at home. We are still novice trail riders, but what a wonderful classroom.
Knowing how wonderful I feel when I come home from a ride, I was not surprised when I came across an article about the concept of ‘Forest Bathing’. Forest Bathing or Shinrin-yoku is a term the Japanese use to describe 'taking in the forest atmosphere'. They have been studying the effects that forests have on our health and wellness for several years and found surprising results. One study, in 2008, was conducted using field experiments in 24 forests across Japan. In each experiment, 12 subjects walked in and also viewed a forest or a city area. Several physiologic measurements were taken. Examples of some of the results include: lower concentrations of cortisol (a stress hormone), lower pulse rates and lower blood pressure. These results provide support for more research into the relationship between forests and human health and wellness and for the development of new strategies for preventive health care. Given these positive results and the calming and beneficial effects of the bond we have with our horse, I would say that a trail ride through the forest is very good for your health. This is something I often say to Aura as we are meandering along the mountain trail.
This article, published in 2010 in the Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine Journal, describes the above 2008 study and several others on Forest Bathing. The physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku (taking in the forest atm...